Parents feeling 'defeated' after Vancouver School Board votes to maintain instruction model
VANCOUVER -- Despite growing pressure from the education ministry to introduce more in-class instruction, the Vancouver School Board has decided to stick to the status quo.
Some parents were hopeful that the school board would introduce changes at Monday night's board meeting but were left feeling frustrated.
"Disappointed, defeated and also dumbfounded. I can't believe they disregarded not only what the minister is saying but also what parents say they want," said Niki Boyd, who has a child in Grade 8.
The board addressed the concerns by introducing a new motion, which only left parents feeling even more deflated.
"I want to make it very clear that there's nothing new in this motion," Trustee Barbara Parrott said at the meeting.
The board passed a motion that requests the superintendent to analyze student outcomes, especially those in Grades 8 and 9, for further study.
The motion also suggested the current teaching model will be maintained for secondary students, pending the review of the student performances from the second quarter and COVID case numbers.
"They said they're going to be collecting data – they have data. They have surveys; they have data from Vancouver coastal -- I mean, they have all the information they need. I think they're stalling and they're not interested in doing what's right for the kids," Boyd said.
Last month, the VSB announced some changes to its high schools, including increasing the number of in-person learning from 8.75 hours a week to 10.75 hours a week for eighth and ninth graders.
At the time, parents said that change was insignificant compared to other school districts where those students are in class full-time.
"As of midpoint in the year, my daughter – and all the Grade 8s and 9s in Vancouver – are already 300 hours behind, on average, all the districts," Boyd said.
At least one Vancouver parent thinks a new school board should be elected.
"Every authority has been telling us that kids need to be in school face-to-face. So I think there is something going on here with the VSB being intransigence. They're perhaps not capable of doing their jobs and this may one of those situations where the school board needs to be recalled," Valentina Mendoza, a parent of two high school students and an elementary student, said.
In defending their instructional model, board chair Carmen Cho said the 15-student cap allows more enhanced cleaning and smaller class sizes allow for more in-depth teaching.
"Health and safety remain the top property in the Vancouver district. Our quarterly model maintains health and safety measures, which has provided a very safe model for our students, as well as our staff," Cho said at the meeting.
But Mendoza isn't sold on this reasoning.
"All of those things they say they're doing – focusing on health and safety – are they by extension saying that every other district in B.C. is not focusing on health and safety? No, they are," she said.
Mendoza, who is a psychiatrist and works with at-risk youth, is worried the lack of in-class guidance will impact the teens' mental health.
"I have already seen what happens when people lose their structured activities and community supports and I see it first hand in the clinic, every single day. Unfortunately, what the VSB has done is brought this home for all of our families," she said.
Three dozen parents submitted questions to the VSB at the board meeting, and none of them were answered individually.
The board chair said she wants to ensure each trustee has the opportunity to read each comment before addressing them.